This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
At the time of the study, only herbaceous "weeds" and grasses grew there. I chose this piece of land for two reasons: 1. The farm owners and the residents would like to see this space become something different. 2. Because it is very typical of "fallow" or disturbed land throughout the region and perhaps other parts of the world. Many believe that the greatest problem humanity has ever faced is our current global ecological crisis, and there is as of yet no easy solution. One the one hand you have an economic system that creates scarcity for short term profits and is methodically destroying the planet and its resources. There are huge amounts of displaced peoples with economies and cultures completely out of balance with their ecology. The Amazonian rain forest continues to be destroyed at an incredible rate, despite the world's scientific understanding that this is very dangerous to global environmental systems. We even have deep ecologists that have disproportionately large ecological footprints. In an interview, Bill Mollison, coiner of the term "permaculture," laments that deep ecologists are his "enemies" in his experience they all take papers (sometimes more than one), drive cars, and do not have gardens. (Mollison & Vlaun, 2001.) Even a large degree of ecological knowledge does not guarantee one's actions still are not environmentally destructive. Nor do good intentions as illustrated in the following story: Kimmy Johnson, professor at John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, California, once told me of turtle she found when she was a child. It has a hot summer day in the Midwest and with a warm, good heart, thought she would do unto the turtle what she would have the turtle do unto her. So she placed the turtle in a pool of water thinking that the turtle would like to cool off. The turtle drowned. Indeed there are no easy answers. In the face of this crisis (or challenge), I feel that it is necessary to be able to further develop our ability to conduct ecological studies. I feel that the traditional or "conventional" scientific method only paints part of the picture and is not accessible or useful to many scenarios. One such scenario comes from the theory that the real cause of our ecological crisis is the separation in our own consciousness. This separation has many forms separation of mind/body, subject/object/, nature/humanity. The list goes on. Finding out about the niche a parasite plays in the food chain is not going to address these issues. I conducted a Qualitative Ecological study using a combination of the Phenomenological method (laid out by Moustakas based on Husserl) and Goethe's way of science. I hear the call of James Lovelock (1988) in The Ages of Gaia when he says that we are in need of planetary physicians. I think that by using Goethe's holistic mode of consciousness, so that you can see the "universal shining through the particular", (Bortoft, 1996, p.179) it might be possible to access the thoughts of Gaia as to discover
2 pathways that lead us to becoming planetary physicians. In assuming this, I studied the ecology around the cob house in Sebastopol, California and asked the following question of it: "What are you striving to be and how can I best help you?" From this I hoped not only to gain local ecological knowledge that could be useful in landscaping appropriately, but also to gain more universal knowledge of Gaia. Starting Assumptions: I assume that the Earth is one living organism, called Gaia, and is selfregulating just like any animal, plant, or human. I also assume that through holistic modes of perceiving as laid out in Goethe's way of science, it is possible to access the thoughts of Gaia, if you will to perceive the universal in the particular and expand our knowledge of ecology. It is also an assumption that my interpretation of exact sensorial imagination and allowing myself to be an organ of expression of the phenomenon are accurate. I subscribe to animism, the belief that all things are alive in their own way and have spirit. I believe that all things (animals, plants, microbes, fungi, rocks, water) have consciousness and intelligence. I believe that the bracketed ecology (and elements within) in the study should be approached as a sentient being(s) with its (their) own intelligence and awareness, and should be treated with respect. I assume not only this, but also that it is possible for me to converse with the ecology in intersubjective dialogue. Beyond this, I hold the assumption Mother Nature knows best, in the sense that the system knows how to get its needs better than I can provide for them. I assume that nature is wiser than I, and that "benign neglect" is the best strategy the less I interfere and the more I provide the system with the means to help itself, the better. Finally, it is my belief that archetypal expressions can be discovered, as well as general principles illuminated, that can help balance an ecology with human need, where the action taken by humans can be "determined by the landscape itself" (Hoffmann, 1998, p. 167). A farm or garden can be an organ of the landscape, and can rebuild soil and water ecology. I think these assumptions are necessary in order to be able to discover the type of knowledge that I am seeking, rather than inhibiting the study. Assumptions must be made before any study, no matter what methodology is being employed. For instance, mathematics cannot be applied to nature until nature has been mathematized and quantified. First there must be an assumption of nature as being made of up of things all external to themselves and quantifiable. The assumptions that begin the study create a space for the results of the study to emerge. I think of doing a study without assumptions like trying to catch rain water without a bucket. The water being knowledge and the bucket being the assumptions. Indeed, the consciousness of assumptions is what I think 2
3 the discipline of Phenomenology brings to the field of research that is most often lacking in "traditional" scientific studies. In the latter, the scientific researcher catches water in a very high tech bucket that has become invisible to him. A Review of the Literature: One of my primary introductions into ecological studies was through Permaculture. Bill Mollison coined the term from a combination of "permanent" and "agriculture" because "there was no word in the English language for sustainable agriculture." (Global Gardener, 1991). It is a way of working with nature rather than against it. It's principles include Earth care and attention to the entire system. It is a practical approach to designing homes, farms, and gardens but also for changing ourselves to perceive holistically so that we can enter a participatory relationship with nature. In many ways it is subversive to the mainstream, and permaculture has been referred to as the "Quiet Revolution." (London, 2001). Chris Storey (1998) writes, "Ecology is subversive because its basic premise is holism." (para 3). The mainstream referred to here is greatly influenced by modern scientific thinking, which is concerned only with one mode of consciousness the verbal/intellectual/analytical mode. Our culture has nearly adopted this mode exclusively and the results have been psychological fragmentation and global ecological destruction. A large portion of this unquestioned embracing of the scientific/intellectual/analytical mode comes from the myth that science is absolute truth, like an "autonomous activity standing outside history" (Storey, 1998, para 4). Thomas Kuhn, amongst others, have laid this belief to rest, at least philosophically. Indeed, Goethe, centuries before Kuhn, was recorded as saying, "We might venture the statement that the history of science is science itself." (Bortoft, 1996, p. 121.) This mainstream approach is not the only way to practice science, however. Goethe, amongst others, have provided us with more possibilities. "If science is freed from the dogmatic scientism of the past, and if nature can manifest in different ways, then there is the possibility of a different kind of science, which is complementary to mainstream science." (Storey, 1998, para 4). This other way of doing science as laid out by Goethe involves a different mode of consciousness the holistic/intuitive mode. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (17491832) viewed nature as a undivided whole, a unity that could only be understood from engaging it with active participation. Rather than removing the observer from the phenomenon (as is the aim of "mainstream science"), Goethe sought to engage it on an intimate level, "through the educable powers of human perception." He endeavored to utilize "firsthand encounter directed in a kindly but rigorous way to know the thing in itself." (Seamon, 1998, p.2). The goal of science in Goethe's view is the metamorphosis of the scientist. (Amrine, 1998, p.37). In applying 3
4 this to an ecological discipline, it could be conceptualized as "thinking the thoughts of Gaia." The human consciousness becomes an organ of expression of the phenomenon. In permaculture, the methodology involves "allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions." (Mollison, 1988, p. ix). The human consciousness can constructed as to include surrounding ecology; indeed, this is part of the way of seeing behind permaculture practices. James Lovelock has provided us with a splendid modern metaphor for the Earth as a whole system. His theory that the Earth is a living, self regulating organism called "Gaia", is in accords with Goethe's philosophy and is a major guidepost in my ecological study. In the Ages of Gaia, Lovelock calls for a rethinking of our relationship to the Earth, (as Goethe calls for as well.) He expresses the need for planetary physicians or doctors (Lovelock, 1988.). This is large part of my motivation to study ecology, and a useful way for me to think about ecological systems as wholes.
Road Map to the Study: The goal of phenomenology as well as Goethe's way of science, is not to develop a hypothesis or theory, but to make the phenomenon visible. Hopefully, my data and interpretations make the ecological striving of the area around the cob house visible like a finger pointing to the moon. The data I gathered was in two forms: 1. Interviews with individuals who are familiar with the land around the cob house. The reasoning behind this was not only to provide a more detailed picture of the ecology with history included, but to see how the phenomenon of the ecology showed up in the interviewees' (coresearchers') consciousness. 2. My own study of the ecology employing Goethe's way of science and a holistic way of perceiving. The analysis of the data laid out in the sections to follow will be presented in rich textual descriptions as well as a myth that will be inspired by the phenomenon. These elements are then tied together into a conclusion and implications for our world are then discussed.
Methodology: My methodology is based on Phenomenology, as laid out by Clark Moustakas, which is based largely on the work of Edmund Husserl. Running parallel and integrated
5 into this Phenomenological approach was my practice of Goethe's way of science, which will be further explicated in the sections below. Historically, Phenomenology is a discipline proposed by Edmund Husserl, nearly a century after Goethe. (Seamon, 1998.) So there can be some debate as to whether or not it is appropriate to call Goethean science a Phenomenological discipline, since Goethe preceded Phenomenology historically. Further, Husserl's Phenomenology starts with the experience, but then pulls back and uses intellectual and cerebral tools such as Epoche', Reduction, and Reflection. Later philosophers such as Martin Heidegger and Maurice MerleauPonty proposed variations on Husserl's conclusions: "These phenomenological thinkers argued that the invariant, transcendental structures that Husserl sought in the realm of consciousness were questionable because he based their reality on speculative, cerebral reflection rather than on actual human experience taking place within the world of everyday life." (Seamon, 1998, p. 9.) This variation has become known as "existential phenomenology" and seems to be much closer to Goethe's idea of staying with the phenomenon throughout the course of the study (according to Seamon). However, Bortoft suggests that Goethe's method did call for a mathematical and cerebral approach in stages of his research. Bortoft (1996) writes of Goethe's method, "It is thoroughly mathematical in its procedure for discovering relationships between the qualities of the colors." (p.230). Indeed, Goethe spent 20 years of painstaking research on his theory of color, and in no way ever condemned the use of cerebral or analytical mind. Clark Moustakas (1994) presents a phenomenology based largely on Husserl's approach, and I can perceive many intersections between this and Goethe's way of science. Husserl outlines the following steps in his interpretation of Phenomenology: Phenomenological Reduction, Horizonalizing, Imaginative Variation, and Synthesis of Textual and Structural Descriptions. (Moustakas, 1994). To put these steps into simpler, informal terms: Clear your mind and get sharp to actually see what is going on. Look at your data for what it is and do not just lead your research into where it is you want it to go (be as honest as you can.) Sleep on it, dream about it, be creative with it. Organize it into a coherent form. 1. Epoche suspend the "natural attitude" so that the cognitive part of perception becomes visible. 2. Phenomenological Reduction: reducing the data to their cores or essences. A "weeding out" approach to organizing data. 3. Horizonalizing all statements considered equal. This can be likened to practicing Epoche' while reviewing the data so as to not unconsciously bias the process of Phenomenological reduction.
6 4. Imaginative Variation: Using the imaginative and creative mind to explore other angles of the phenomenon and other possibilities of its expression. 5. Synthesis of Textual and Structural Descriptions: Combining the product of the Phenomenological reduction of the data with the insights gained in the description provided by Imaginative Variation in order to further distill out the essence of the phenomenon. (Moustakas, 1994). Goethe's method primarily is concerned with perceiving from a holistic mode of consciousness, but does employ procedures to facilitate this. The first step in Goethe's method is observation. (Bortoft, 1996, p. 66.) What is referred to here is active observation. It is plunging into seeing the qualities of the phenomenon, rather than "passive reception of visual phenomenon." (Bortoft, 1996, p. 66.) Using this active seeing takes the researcher into the phenomenon, and helps him get away from the usually automatic analytical mode of perceiving. This active observation helps get us beyond what Husserl describes as the "natural attitude," in which the cognitive aspect of knowledge and observation is invisible. This seems to correspond very closely with the practice of Epoche'. The second step is what Goethe calls exakte sinnliche Phantasie (exact sensorial imagination.) This involves thinking the phenomenon in the imagination, not just thinking about the phenomenon with the intellect. It is a concrete imagining, and not an abstract one. This seems to correspond very closely to the practice of Imaginative Variation. The only difference I perceived when conducting these in the course of my study was that imaginative variation tended to encompass abstract thoughts as well as concrete imaginings. Further, Goethe suggested that the phenomenon cannot be complete until it is known in human consciousness, and it is the role of the investigator to prepare his or her consciousness so as to allow the phenomenon to come into presence. In applying this to my ecological study, it could be conceptualized as "thinking the thoughts of Gaia." The human consciousness becomes an organ of expression of the phenomenon. As mentioned above Goethe preceded Husserl and Phenomenology by more than a century. In looking at Goethe's method, it seems to me that Goethe is the original "phenomenologist." He was practicing it before the term was coined. Heidegger, much later, took the original Greek word for phenomenon phainomenon which means, "that which shows itself in itself," and combined it with logos in order to arrive at his interpretation of the word "phenomenology." Heidegger further extrapolated phenomenology as a method to mean, "to let that which shows itself be seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself from itself." This seems to be very close to Goethe's aim in his studies. The goal for both Phenomenology and Goethe's method is to not to come up with hypotheses or theories, but to make the phenomenon visible. The
7 reason I have separated these two methodologies in my Study is for subtle and contextual, not gross and conceptual differences. The reason for my chosen methodology (Phenomenology and Goethe's way of science) is because the nature of the study demands it on many levels. I, like Goethe, feel the extreme limitations of applying a mechanical, reductionist, or "mainstream" science to living phenomenon. Often such "mainstream" science declares itself to be empirical, although according to (Hoffman, 1998, p. 132), the current scientific definition of "empirical" is "deriving from observation rather than from theory." The Goethean way of science and the Phenomenological method actually steer us away from theory laden studies, which plagues "mainstream" science, in order to practice a more true and rich empiricism. Goethe's science and Phenomenology strive for empiricism as a higher goal, not stopping merely with physical measurements and theory laden hypotheses. This method is looking "To the things themselves." (from Moustakas, 1994, p. 26) Consequently, a typical or "mainstream" scientific study of the ecology of the place will call for physical measurements, plant inventory, soil analysis, etc. These analyses were a part of my study, but only a part, the most basic. For this method is not an "alternative" to "mainstream" science but in fact, an elaboration on it, leading to a deeper and hopefully more useful truth. The need for such an expanded method of experimentation might be obvious to anyone in the field of biology or ecology. The patterns are too complex for quantitative or "mainstream" scientific data to be useful in itself in many situations. For instance you can measure the pH of a soil ecology and extrapolate that data to apply to other ecologies, perhaps suggesting which plants grow best there. However, one of a potentially infinite number of factors affect the growth of the plants in the ecology besides the soil pH. For instance, a mycorrhizal fungi could actually change or buffer the pH right around the roots of the plants, allowing plants that normally prefer a higher overall soil pH to thrive in a lower one. If measuring the amount of nitrogen in the soil around a nitrogen fixing plant, a quantitative analysis could be misleading if looked at with the same blinders that "mainstream" science often utilizes. A gopher could defecate underneath the plant, and could be responsible for increased nitrogen levels. These are gross physical examples to prove a point, the fact that ecologies are way more complicated than one dimensional empiricism can ever hope to understand. This is not to say that a scientific understanding of ecology and of particular ecologies is not possible, it merely requires an expanded methodology. So one can gather tons of "mainstream data" but not come up with any real conclusions for there is always another variable in the equation. Goethe's method requires active participation in the phenomenon, and from this engagement it is perhaps possible to perceive patterns in the wholeness patterns that are beyond the sum of the parts (mainstream quantitative data.) Measuring a person using the "mainstream" quantitative way can be likened to 7
8 taking out a ruler and measuring their height in order to obtain data about them; Goethe's way would be to talk to them to engage in intersubjective dialogue. The method I employed was of active dialogue and engagement with the Phenomenon (is this case the bracketed ecology.) Again I would like to invoke the analogy of conducting a study of a human being. Measuring things quantitatively is part of what I did take notice of the physical description of this "person". But it is clear to me that this is a very shallow understanding of a person, and only through expanded methods such as conversing with the person can a more complete understanding be gained. This is what I did with the bracketed ecology conversed with it. I encountered a complex being that is as deep and rich as the humans that are a part of the ecology.
Design: I employed a combination of human interviews, holistic perceiving of the ecology directly, and journaling in order to gather my data. Before I came up with any design for the interviews, I went into the area for observation, after practicing Epoche'. I observed all the thoughts that came into my consciousness and feelings I had and wrote them down in my journal. From this I came up with questions for the interviews. Human interviews: I chose two people to interview that have spent considerable time in the area around the cob house. They have observed it over a number of years, altered its ecology through their practices, and have noted its seasonal fluctuations. I asked them each about their own feelings, initial thoughts, and first impressions of the area around the cob house. Each were fairly reluctant to give this information, and were better able to answer questions that were more physical, historical, or future based. I asked the following types of questions from a list that I created after spending time with the area: 1. General feelings, first impressions how the ecology shows up in their consciousness. 2. History of the place their own personal history, their knowledge of the history of the farm, the area, and what the ecology might have been like before white people came. Though based on considerable knowledge, the last part required them to engage in their imagination (which helped facilitate the participation of their consciousness with the phenomenon.)
9 3. What they would like to see the place become. This most often took the form of design ideas, which came even before I got to this line of questioning. 4. I asked them about the existing elements in the ecology. What they mentioned and what they did not mention further helped explicate their conscious participation with the phenomenon. This also provided me with physical knowledge of the ecology that I had overlooked. 5. I asked them what they thought the area would look like if totally left alone. This was one of the more interesting questions, and I now believe that it required them to engage in what Goethe described as exact sensorial imagination. Otherwise, I left it fairly open ended, allowing narratives and ideas to develop without interruption or intrusion. When I did ask the questions, they were engaged and intuitively tuned into the person and the moment, with the ultimate goal to get them to really communicate how the ecology was showing up in their consciousness. The questions provided valuable information in their direct answers as well as served as prompters for further exploration. I recorded the interviews with a video camera, but basically used it as an audio recording device. I then transcribed the audio from the interviews, taking out most of the superfluous "uhms," "likes" and "you knows". I aimed for each interview to be 45 minutes in duration and informed my coresearchers of this wish. One interviewed neatly concluded at 46 minutes, and the other one ran out of steam at around 37 minutes. The Goethe Part: The most challenging part of the Goethean study was switching to a holistic/intuitive mode of consciousness. This was the prerequisite for all the data I gathered on my own for the phenomenon. I interviewed myself in this process as well as kept a journal of my thoughts. This was a very informal way of data gathering, as I tried to allow the phenomenon to speak through me on its terms, rather than mine. My only direction was to switch to holistic consciousness, to think about the Phenomenon using exact sensorial imagination, and write it down in my journal and talk about it in my interview. This is the realm of the "archetypal phenomenon" or "UrPhenomenon" as described by Goethe. This stage is most closely associated with the inner knowing of the ecology, "grokking", or perhaps similar to shamanic or spiritual practices of "becoming one" with nature or particular nature spirits. "Goethe talked about expressing the 'archetypal phenomenon' in terms of 'short, pregnant sentences' that he compared in their cogency and symbolic power to mathematical expressions." (Hoffmann, 1998, p.135.) 9
10 This where I hopefully discovered not only aspects of the essence of the studied ecology on its own terms, but broader, archetypal patterns of terrestrial ecology. From this level of understanding it will hopefully be possible to build and design a system that works with the system on its own terms, a system that is an organ of the ecology, with a belongingness to the landscape (local and global.) Presenting the data: My findings are presented in the textual descriptions that follow, as well as the myth that accompanies it. The written descriptions and synthesis of the data provide one avenue for making the phenomenon visible, and the myth provides a further expansion of this goal. Hopefully, the combination of these texts and creative expression will give a sense of the essence of the phenomenon, making it visible. Data Analysis: Before analyzing the data, I practiced what is called Epoche. This is the suspension of the "natural attitude," described by Husserl, or the normal way in which we perceive where the cognitive act of perception is invisible. I tried to be present with the data and watch my mind try to impose its meaning on it every step of the way. It was very squirmy and elusive, but I think I was able to perform Epoche to a large degree. I went into it thinking I was looking for past, present, future, and theory laden versus participatory consciousness but that quickly dissolved as I looked at the data and became aware of my "seeing." The data revealed its own set of categories, themes, and labels. I first read through the verbatim transcripts of my interviews and of my journal to get an overall familiarity with the whole of the data. I then began to underline in black ink significant statements. After a couple of pages in the Gregory interview, I realized that the manner in which I was coding was going to make an unmanageable and unorganized list of labels. So I went and bought colored pencils, and thought that I would code them different colors for Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. I realized during this process that the colors were not quite fitting the themes. I continued the process anyway, and then grouped them by the 4 colors I had chosen. They were not completely accurate in these groupings, but they were close enough to make them manageable, so I typed them out on the computer. In looking through the labels, I started to find commonalties in them. I was able to group them all into an appropriate category. Again practicing Epoche, I tried to let the labels categorize themselves rather than me imposing my ideas onto them. From over 200 labels, I came up with 13 categories, which I furthered distilled into 5 themes.
11 Here is a sample chart table demonstrating the results of my coding. Many of the labels have not been included, although I think the most significant ones have been:
12 Significant statements and descriptions divided into themes and categories. FIRST IMPRESSIONS:
1. "Looks like a construction site" 2. "looks more established than it did, . . . now its kind of more naturalized . . . and it's kind of nice to see" 3. "I passed it in a hurry because it was too close to the house." 4. "I thought the cob building was beautiful, especially the snake."
EARTH ELEMENTS Existing elements/climate on and off site
1. miner's lettuce. 2. curly dock 3. annual grasses 4. different patches of fertility 5. cob house 6. small wetland with black plastic liner 7. debris 8. tractor access "So if I need to make a wide turn, I can make it and not interfere with the farm. 9. 4 wheeler tracks 10. pollution "I wouldn't think right here is particularly bad." 11. nearby redwoods. "They love it here."
WATER ELEMENTS History, and Future (if left to its own devices)
1. Used to be mixed woodlands probably oak 2. Used to be a drainage in the center of farm with stream and willows 3. Orchard used to be Gravenstein orchard and started to senesce. 4. Replanted as current orchard in 1980 by Jim Gabriel 5. Area around cob house used for various things: a. nursery b. small annual gardens c. drying laundry d. dumping ground for piles of fruit. e. work party area for construction of cob house 6. If left to its own devices it would become blackberry thicket and possible oak woodland.
1. garden 2. pretty flowering things. 3. communal area 4. "garden jungle." 5. "food forest." 6. vegetables.
land use measured as usefulness for or in relationship to humans
1. "utilizing and empty space" 2. "become a useful space." 3. "easy place to dump the fruit." 4. "good for the land to be seen" 5. "this was one piece of land that didn't fall into complete senescence and under utilized."
nature doesn't know how to take care of itself
1. orchard needs to be care for 2. "gardens require attention." 3. "not get watered, and all the plants die."
nature is something to fight against/work against nature knows best
1. "I think it would have been really hard to establish this orchard organically because of the gopher problem." 2. "Anything particularly noxious or invasive we try to keep from going to seed or spreading too much." 1. "it seems to me it's still recovering from that." 2. "there's a whole winter's vegetation . . . that's undisturbed . . . it's kind of nice to see that."
general ecological ideas
1. particular area hard to separate from farm as a whole. "This particular area?" 2. belief that corresponding wild ecology is good sign of what it looked like and what it will look like if left alone
FIRE ELEMENTS: strivings of the land as perceived holistically using Goethe's way of seeing
1. "it wants to be forest." 2. "striving for verticality" 3. "the cob house looks like a mushroom" "mushroom gesture."
perceiving the universal shining in the particular
1. "instance worth a thousand" in the miner's lettuce patch longing for biomass and verticality 2. access to Gaia's thoughts desire for the land to become jungle.
Composite Textual Description: In the following description, I have not separated the description into themes or categories but integrated them into the whole. Actually the term integration here is false, because they never were separate I took them apart for the tables and charts above, and in the following description I am allowing them to revert to their wholeness. The land where the cob house now stands has been altered a lot by humans. It once was probably a dense woodland, and since then it has been greatly disturbed. It has been turned into a nursery, a dumping pile for market fruit, laundry drying area, small annual gardens, and eventually the construction of a cob house in which the land was furthered disturbed. "It looks like a construction site." There is now lots of debris scattered about such as leftover clay, tarps, buckets, gravel, and sand. There are patches of vibrant growth and patches of heavily disturbed, nearly lifeless soil. The plants that stand out most to the coresearchers were the miner's lettuce, which is very good to eat, the curly dock, the various annual grasses, and to a lesser degree the chickweed and the milk thistle, which will probably become more prominent as the seasons progress. The soil is sandy and believed to have a high nitrogen content in patches, but is not extraordinarily rich or fertile. "Smells good, but not super rich." The cob house creates microclimates and adds edges to the otherwise uniformity of the area. There is a consensus that the area needs to support human needs. One co researcher only spoke of it in relation to its use for humans. Her first impression of the area was that it looked like, "a construction site," and was "in the process of becoming something useful." Another coresearcher saw the value of the existing growth but also thought it would be good to grow a garden, especially vegetables "Well, I'm biased because I grow vegetables, so maybe vegetables." I also felt the need for it to produce for humans. I suggested a "garden jungle" and a "food forest" be installed in the area. Much of the area is devoted to tractor access, which greatly affects the ecology preventing any sort of succession or garden from being grown in a wide berth around the cob house.
14 There was also a consensus amongst the coresearchers and myself that the area, if left completely to its own devices, would undergo a rather slow succession from annual grasses/weeds as it is now (being nearly lifeless in the summer), to eventual blackberry thicket. Indeed, there used to be blackberries in the area, and were recently pulled out. "We dug them out pretty well, but I'm sure they could reestablish." One of the co researchers and myself noted that oaks would probably find their way into the eventual blackberry thicket, further evolving the succession. From the two coresearchers there was a great deal of history mentioned in their accounts. It was measured in terms of utility for one coresearcher, and in terms of "memories" for the other. There was a considerable amount of information given about the farm as a whole, and its history. There was a perception from the coresearchers and myself that in order to talk about the ecology around the cob house, it was necessary to connect it with the entire farm and to some degree to the bioregion it is a part of. The land has been farm land for a long time, most likely a Gravenstein apple orchard and possibly a berry farm. The whole farm, which includes the area around the cob house, has been significantly altered from its original dense woodland state. In the center of the orchard which is now rows of small apple and pear trees with wide paths for tractors, there used to be a drainage creek covered with willows and other wetland vegetation. Those have been completely obliterated, and a stream flows no more. Several attitudes about ecology and nature in general were revealed in the descriptions. One coresearched considered what he saw to be more "naturalized" vegetation as being more "established" and "nice to see." I see the overgrown weeds as a good sign as well, and trust that nature knows best and can take care of herself. The other coresearcher however, indicated that the area needs human care. "Gardens are an expression that people live here and take care of it. I think there are ways in which I could be helpful and having at least the perennials that are established cared for, and see that they are maintained." My individual description, while overlapping with my coresearchers reports in many of the ways illustrated above, took the phenomenon of the ecology a step further. Through the practices laid about by Goethe for engaging the phenomenon, I believe that I was able to allow the ecology access to my consciousness. It had some pretty clear messages. One was, "stop fucking with it!" in which it seemed to be indicating its state of confusion and pain of being so constantly disturbed. I experienced the land's desire to become forest. I also detected two different, but related "strivings" or gestures of the land. One was the "striving for verticality" and the other was the "mushroom gesture."
15 The consensus was that the land used to be dense woodland, and looked very similar to other wild patches throughout the farm. But what if originally it was managed by the Native Americans to be a veritable paradise with all kinds of plants and animals providing an abundance of food and an easy way of life? Perhaps wild places in the entire region instead of being gnarled blackberry/willow/oak thickets were friendly to both humans and the wild. It is only our assumption that the Native Americans were primitive and had little affect on the land. Or I suppose it could be a psychological denial on our part as guilty conquerors neither coresearcher or myself mentioned the Native Americans and their effect on the land. The land could perhaps also be "fed up" with humans in particular, and despite the potential benefits we could bring, it wants us to go away and never come back. The blackberry thicket gesture gives us some indication of this idea. An impenetrable tangle of thorns, it would rip a human to shreds. Poison oak, another plant not mentioned in the data, also is likely to inhabit the area, further indicating for humans to "keep out." Maybe the land does not want our help at all, in fact has become adversarial to humans. Exact Sensorial Imagination and the "Universal Shining Through the Particular". Engaging in this process as outlined by Goethe, I attempted to allow myself to be an organ of perception for the phenomenon of the ecology. The following description can only be thought of as poetic, like a finger pointing to the moon. It seemed that the plants were orphaned, abused, and confused. Like a dog that is kept chained up in the backyard and never having either proper human or doglike interactions. It's a sad, stunted story. However, the wild heart in the land is still alive and is striving, doing its best to become forest. It wants to become forest, the animals beckon it. The soil longs for it. I was able to detect this through an "instance worth a thousand" in a patch of miner's lettuce, in which the whole of the ecology revealed itself through the part. Through the part of the local ecology, the universal global ecology, the mind of Gaia, if you will, revealed further information to me. The land wants human interaction, it wants access to human consciousness and intelligence, and it wants to use that to become jungle. Just as in many areas of the world where you do not mow your lawn it will become forest, this area longs beyond all other things, to become junglelike something that is more productive that it could ever be without human participation. The key difference between this and what humans have been doing to it is apparent in the word "participation." Humans have been using it, often abusing it, trying to control it. Whereas what the land wants is humans to help assist it in what it strives to do, on its own terms.
16 Composite Structural Description: It seems there are opposing expressions and paradigms of the ecology around the cob house. On the one hand is the paradigm that sees it only in terms of its use for humans, and on the other hand is the paradigm that "nature knows best." The land wants to become blackberry thicket and eventual forest, perhaps in part to want to keep humans out. On the other hand, the humans do not want the area to become blackberry thicket and dense forest, instead need it to serve their needs and wishes. Through the Goethe method of allowing my consciousness to be an organ of phenomenon, I interpret that the land does want humans to help it become what it only can do on its own with blackberries, grasses, and "weeds." Even in its succession from weeds to blackberry thicket, it will provide humans with food and medicine, and fulfil its own wishes and desires. There is no reason for human wishes and the land's wishes to be opposing, other than the attitudes and beliefs that we hold in our minds and hearts. Perhaps the Native Americans had this figured out. The land has been greatly disturbed and struggles to regenerate itself in spite of all this disturbance. The disturbances that humans continue to bring to the area selects the type of things that grow there. "Don't really see any dock in here . . . immediately around the cob building." In a way, it keeps the land, "stunted" so that it reaches neither full expression on its terms or in terms of human use. It seems that the neglect mentioned from one coresearcher is perhaps not as opposed to the idea that "nature knows best" as mentioned above. From the view of humans and the land participating to each other's mutual benefit, it seems that human care is indeed integral, and not opposing to fulfilling the land's strivings. Goethe himself suggested that the phenomenon is not fully realized until it is known in human consciousness. This perhaps is not true in a sense I can imagine nature willfully wishing humans were gone and dead, but I think it points to where the different paradigms overlap and can be brought into a synergy.
Synthesis of Textual and Structural Descriptions: The ecology around the cob house is connected to the ecology of the farm, the bioregion, and to the entire planet. There are aspects to it that are historical as well as mental. It has been used for various purposes throughout the years, significantly altering it from its original dense woodland or possible Native American managed "paradise." The land has been greatly disturbed for years with a variety of structures and human activities, the most recent being the construction of the cob house. This has left
17 the area with many weeds and grasses, along with many patches of heavily disturbed soil and scattered piles of debris. Currently it is not deemed to be at a desirable level of health for either humans or from the lands' perspective as gained by my practicing Goethean science. "It looks like a construction site," is a description that does not inspire beauty or health. Although the weeds and grasses are "welcomed to be here," some of which are useful to humans as well as being "nice to see," it is generally a disturbed habitat that struggles to provide any abundance or soil fertility. As the long dry summer approaches, much of the vegetation will completely die off, leaving only scattered jimson weed. Being so close to the house and to the kitchen, there is a strong desire from the humans for this land to become more productive providing food, beauty and medicine for humans. The land itself, tired of being constantly disturbed, is on its way to becoming a tremendous blackberry thicket, although this would never be allowed to happen while it is managed by humans (and would take several years). So the blackberries want to keep humans out with their thorns, so it can build the soil and satisfy the "longing for verticality" and forest as expressed by the land. But the humans will not allow that to happen for various reasons. These two viewpoints show up as being opposing in some accounts, but after engaging in Goethe's method of perceiving the whole, a possible synergy arises in which humans can fulfil their needs as well as the land fulfil its longings. By perceiving the longings and strivings of the land humans can know how best to meet the land's wishes, and hopefully at the same time do so while meeting their needs and wishes. The ecology exists in the consciousness of the observers and is well beyond a collection of plants and soil minerals. The wishes, desires, and paradigms of humans are an integral part of the land's ecology, and to view them as opposing things is a construct, one that Goethe tried to show us a way to get beyond. I liken the ecology around the cob house to the weeds that comprise it. They have the heart and desire of the wild, of the Goddess, of Gaian regeneration, but they've been left orphaned, far from their place of origin and the roles they evolved into, just doing all they can before the next wave of massive human disturbance comes in and alters them once more. I consider the ecology to be developmentally stunted, but with great potential and a gentle, humble beauty. To further distill the essence I'll disclose the following description. I think it would make a great time lapsed movie: From the dark understory of the dense woodland, it is alive with sounds of animals and insects and the wind through the treetops. It remains this way, in gentle stillness for quite some time. Suddenly, like a storm, it is ripped up and replaced with sparse rows of trees and houses are built nearby. It is altered so completely that it becomes a dust bowl, dry, hard, and dead for nearly 6 months of the year. Structures 17
18 come and go as do little gardens and there are no more trees left. The land is green and lush in patches amongst all the debris in the winter, but dry and desertlike in the summer. The sun beats down so hot. The jimson weed grows in the baking sun and seeds and dies until the rains begin starting the cycle once again. The blackberries try to cover the ground but are constantly ripped up by humans. Tractors come and go as do dogs and people. A four wheeler randomly charges through the area as if were concrete path. The grass that was pressed down by the four wheeler, slowly starts to rise again.
Finally, in a further attempt to make the Phenomenon visible, I have constructed a myth, in which I tried to allow myself to be an organ of expression:
In the beginning there was darkness. The mushrooms grew and thrived and changed the face of the Earth bringing soil. Worms started thriving in the mushrooms and furthered nurtured the soil. Birds came to eat the worms and were the messengers of the plants spirits. Plants began to grow, and they grew big and wide. Squirrel came and planted acorns. The sacred oaks grew and provided massive abundance for all. Eventually the oaks became so successful that they provided more food than all the animals of the forest could eat. The deer, the squirrels, the gophers, they did not know what to do with this rotting food. They became lazy and all fell into disarray. Coyote, the creator of animals came to straighten this out. The squirrels all asked, "What are we going to do with all this rotting food? There are so many acorns! Coyote, can you help us?" Coyote snarfed, "why don't you just make more squirrels so I can make more Coyotes?" The squirrels jumped back and desperately responded, "there aren't enough places to live. There's not enough water, Coyote you know . . . " Coyote laughed, "I know, I was just kidding." But the Coyote, creator of animals, knew what to do. He said, "I'll great human beings people. I'll create them so they can eat the acorns. They will also help catch water and help the land breathe and grow. But beyond this, they will allow the land to have experience through them, so we can all share in the bounty of their minds." The squirrels agreed with some trepidation, and Coyote created people. And the people lived and ate acorns, blackberries, and all manner of plants. They hunted birds and game and fished. They allowed the land to speak through them and share in their experiences. The world was rich and abundant and in harmony. Then the ghosts of the gray sky came in like a storm. They tore down the trees, ripped up the land and brought in a whole manner of beasts and plants and left them orphaned in a strange land, not knowing how to care for it. Turmoil and strife became a way of life. Things were dumped in the land, it was poisoned, neglected. The oaks all but
19 disappeared from view. The sun baked down on the land and fewer and fewer plants and animals came to live on it. Ghosts were the only visitors, and they were not able to allow the land to speak. The land's heart became darkness. In the beginning there was darkness. Out of the darkness, a few plants still shone their hearts. A few of the ghosts had planted some trees and added a little beauty to the land. These ghosts began asking the land to speak through them, but it could not longer remember what to say, and the ghosts did not know how to listen. But little by little, it started to happen and eventually the land and the ghosts learned how to talk to each other. The ghosts spoke of how they used to be people and they wanted to be people once again. The land spoke through the ghosts and told them how to achieve this. They told them of how the original people came to be. Because there wasn't enough food for the mushrooms they added piles and piles of wastes from the ghost cities. The mushrooms grew and thrived. Because there weren't enough birds or squirrels anymore, the ghosts used giant ghost birds to bring in seeds and plants from all around the Earth. They planted sacred oaks and a whole manner of sacred trees that the original people never knew existed. The land began to breathe and grow once again. The ghosts asked, "Are we people now?" The land replied, "No." The ghosts gasped, "Why not? We have done everything you have asked." Coyote, the creator of animals, joined in. "Not until you eat all of this food," he smiles wryly. The ghosts ate the food and held a celebration, and they were people once again.
Validity: In Phenomenology, often the coresearchers will be given a chance to review the descriptions in order to help ensure a sense of validity. In this study however, this approach is not as applicable. There are only a few points in which I can imagine the presentation being challenged. This would involve contacting on coresearcher that is my boss and landlord and asking her to review some of the paradigmatic aspects mentioned in the description. (I cannot imagine any challenges to the physical descriptions or inventory of plants.) I can imagine however, awkward situations in which my "crazy ideas" threaten the security of her farming paradigm and might prevent me from actually designing a garden. Because of the rich social dynamic involved, and the limited information I would suspect to get from this, I'm choosing not to employ this approach in ensuring validity. The best way I can imagine to ensure validity of this study is to further interact and observe the land. Watch it grow and change over the years just wait and see. Implementing some of the suggested designs will also reveal further information that
20 would help verify many of the findings of the study. Planting a food forest, a garden, or developing the first temperate jungle in the world at this site would be good ways to ensure validity, but that is beyond the scope of this document and time.
The Role of Researcher: I found that my role in this study was very tricky to say the least. After conducting this study and witnessing the other Phenomenological studies of my classmates, I have had many thoughts stirred in my head. One thing I have realized is that I do not believe that any research, whether empirical scientific and quantitative, or phenomenological or hermeneutical and qualitative, is different than art. The best art, like the best research, allows the phenomenon to speak clearly through the artist (or researcher.) Did I slant and bias the study? absolutely. I did however, try to be as conscious of it as possible and explicate to the best of my abilities. I did try to let the phenomenon speak through me as clearly as possible, as is the goal of any good art. I can no longer seem to think of research as being nonbiased and different from art. I took an interest in this subject because of a perceived dire need for the planet. I have ecological trauma from youth as does nearly everyone I broach the subject with. Surely this guides the study as well. I do not see this guiding of the study as something to be avoided, though, but instead encouraged. When Galileo looked through his telescope at the moon, he did not perceive valleys and mountains right away. He had to first come up with the organizing idea of valleys and mountains, then he perceived them as such. (Bortoft, 1996, p.56). Goethe wrote that "the history of science is science itself." So in doing this study, I am in part creating a reality, a story that will lead to other stories that will lead to further research and knowledge. I am a creative being, and I will continue to consciously create. I implore other researchers to join me.
SUMMARY: The study reveals the complex dynamics of ecology and its interactions with human consciousness and paradigms. I set out to explore the ecology of the area around the cob house using holistic, Goethean perception. I thought I would find out about soil structure, existing plants and what they indicate, microclimates and micro differences in soil profile as well as people's feelings and thoughts about the area. These things were revealed by the study, and I have a considerable amount of physical data on the ecology, as well as gestures and movements that describe its essence. But what became more
21 interesting to me as the study went along were the paradigms of nature that my co researchers and myself carry along with us, and how this affects ecology. The "nature as human use" paradigm lent itself to altering the ecology to suit whatever needs and whims the human inhabitants had a nursery, laundry drying area, a dump pile for fruit, and a diploma completion project which was the building of the cob house. It seemed apparent to me that the land was not dictating these things humans were. On the other hand, in the design ideas presented, there was an acknowledgment that the individual quality of the land needed to be considered in planning gardens or other uses. There was overlap in all areas the paradigm of human use intermingled with the paradigm of what the land was best suited to do. The paradigm that says nature has its own right to be was intermingled with designs to plant "garden jungles" and "food forests" to support humans. Trying to separate these out in actuality is like trying to separate the archetypal elements of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water in our psyches they are all interwoven, interdependent, and ultimately inseparable. The most fascinating thing to me was the agreement from various perspectives of what the land would do if left alone by humans that it would become a thicket of thorny blackberries. This revealed a lot about the ecology of this area and its strivings. Humans were part of the strivings for this land, too. The land needs to meet human needs because humans are part of the ecology. But its not as simple as that. Two factors complicate it the paradigm that humans are in control of the ecology instead of a part of it, and the fact that in our culture we do not depend on this piece of land for our lives, further removing us from the connection with the ecology. Humans are an integral part of the ecology, but at the same time removed from it. These findings hopefully shed further light on our interactions with the natural world and their dynamics. It seems that the way we have been thinking about nature has greatly failed us ecologically (global environmental degradation) and psychologically (our fragmented minds.) We need to find new ways (or revive ancient ones) to think about and interact with nature. If indeed this study allowed me access to the mind of Gaia, then I think we are heading in the right direction. I feel that being able to perceive wholes and become conscious participants in nature would do a great deal to heal our psychological fragmentation as well balance ourselves with our ecology. From a shamanic perspective, this entering into the mind of Gaia through perception of the whole might balance humans and society with the spirit world of nature, and may prove to be the only method to really save ourselves from extinction. On a less expansive level, I think studies such as these are necessary when designing permacultures or integrated ecological designs. The information gained through this study will inform my efforts to construct gardens or food forests in the area around the cob house and other similar areas throughout the region. I like to think of this study along the lines of the slogan, "think globally, act locally." Although a common 21
22 bumper sticker cliche', it seems true and pertinent to me on many levels. Think as the planet not about the planet but as the planet, when acting on any local ecology. Thus as Goethe aimed to do and I hopefully have done in this study find the whole shining through the part. Limitations of the study: This study demonstrated many different paradigms and human interactions of the ecology as well as describing many of its physical qualities. However, only two additional people were interviewed, and they represent a very small percentage of the population. Also the time frame for the study is much shorter than is needed to really get a sense of the patterns of an ecology. I think a full year's cycle would be a more accurate and achievable goal. Another thing that would reveal even deeper information about the land would be an action based on a conscious participation with it. Planting gardens, trees, adding animals, etc. could lead to a deepening of the understanding of the area. In view of this, the limitations of this study are apparent. Also, as I am fairly inexperienced at perceiving Gaia's thoughts, there could volumes more of richer, deeper descriptions derived from engagement in Goethean holistic perception. Recommendations for future research: I implore other researchers to further develop Goethe's way of science, and to add qualitative methodologies into ecological studies. To take humans and their paradigms out of the equation in ecological studies is to miss a large portion of reality, perhaps even leading to nearly unusable fragmentation. This is also a call to Phenomenological, psychological, and social researchers to include ecology and the physical and nonhuman world into their studies. I think these things are separate because of the same mind/body separation that leads to the "hard problem" of consciousness as well as to all the symptoms of the modern mind that are often pinned on Descartes. So I implore all researchers to stop this and embrace a paradigm of holism. Personal and Professional outcomes. I found during the course of this process that doing research and reporting it is a lot like making movies. Images are concrete, like Goethe's method. Movies are holistic in nature. Leonard Shlain (1998) speaks of moving images as being holistic, feminine, and in accords with Goddess archetypes whereas alphabetic writing is abstract, linear and male. I think Goethe would have been a filmmaker if he were alive today. I think
23 filmmaking can perhaps be a great tool in changing our awareness to a holistic modality, as well as valuable research method. A picture says a thousand words. I can describe on paper the phenomenon in an exhaustive manner, but one picture can make the "aha!" moment occur in the viewers mind. A picture is whole, and contains "a thousand words." If that's true, a motion picture with sound tells a million. In Phenomenology, the researcher tries to make the phenomenon visible how valuable filmmaking could be in this endeavor! I started my career in the movies, and hope to now bring this idea of using filmmaking as a way to consciously participating with nature into fruition. Social meaning and Global Awakening I hear the cry of James Lovelock, who calls for planetary physicians. I have been designing ecologies and learning permaculture and its philosophy for 4 years. We need a new science and methodology that participates with Gaia and ecology, rather than trying to control it and fight it. The latter has lead to horrific warfare and global environmental destruction. If the amount of money and time were put into integrating humans with the global ecology, the results could be like magic far beyond our dreams. So if the view of science and research can be changed as to present more socially and economically acceptable results, then perhaps this future will no longer merely live in my imagination. This is a shift we need to make if we are to survive. We need a methodology to go about it, and hopefully this study has at least hinted at possible pathways to a new world. One of the goals of science in Goethe's view is the metamorphosis of the scientist. (Amrine, 1998, p. 37). This change would necessarily incur a radical shift in our relationship to nature. "Instead of mastery over nature, the scientist's knowledge would become the synergy of humanity and nature." (Bortoft, 1996, p. 115). It is in the opinion of this author, that Goethe's science is profoundly insightful, and is desperately needed in our current world out of balance with nature. It is needed on a physical level as our global ecology is in crisis, and on a psychological level in which the modern psyche has been ripped way from nature, and left shivering the cold. I'll close with a quote from Goethe concerning the aim of his method: "through the contemplation of an ever creating nature, we should make ourselves worthy of spiritual participations in her productions." REFERENCES: Amrine, F. (1998). "The Metamorphosis of the Scientist." In D. Seamon and A. Zajonc
24 (ED), Goethe's Way of Science, (pp. 3354). Albany. State University of New York Press. Bortoft, H. (1996). The Wholeness of Nature. Lindisfarne. Hudson, New York. Hoffmann, N. (1998). "The Unity of Science and Art: Goethean Phenomenology as a New Ecological Discipline." In D. Seamon and A. Zajonc (ED), Goethe's Way of Science, (pp. 129176). Albany. State University of New York Press. London, S. (2001). "Permaculture: A Quiet Revolution: An Interview with Bill Mollison." From HopeDance Magazine, #31, November/December (2001). San Luis Obispo. Lovelock, J. (1988). The Ages of Gaia. Norton. New York. Mollison, B. (1988). Permaculture: A Designer's Manual. Tagari. Sydney. Mollison, B. (Speaker). (1991). From the film Global Gardener. Australia. 220 Productions. Mollison, B. and Vlaun, S. (2001). Interview with Bill Mollison. Retrieved on July 22, 2004 from http://www.seedsofchange.com/be_organic/mollison_interview.asp Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological Research Methods. Sage Publications. Thousand Oaks, California. Seamon, D. (1998). Goethe, Nature, and Phenomenology: An Introduction. In D. Seamon and A. Zajonc (ED), Goethe's Way of Science, (pp. 129176). Albany. State University of New York Press. Shlain, L. (1998). The Alpabet versus the Goddess. New York. Viking Storey, C. (1998.) "All is Leaf: Goethe's Intuitive Intellect and Environmental Philosophy." from The Trumpeter.
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